On paper, this is a mismatch but will it play out that way?
Week 3 of the NFL season has the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hitting the road for the second time this season as they take on the winless Denver Broncos. Tampa Bay (1-1) is a six-point road favorite as the home team is extremely banged up entering this one.
Denver (0-2) has won four straight in this series with Tampa's last victory coming back in 1999. Remember these two play every four years as the NFL schedule rotates through divisions. Back in 2016, the undefeated Broncos won 27-7 on the road in Tampa as Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian outdueled Jameis Winston, who threw two interceptions (go figure) in the loss.
All is temporarily right in Tampa as the Bucs are coming off a 31-17 win over the Panthers. The offense worked as everyone predicted with Tom Brady throwing a TD pass to Mike Evans and Leonard Fournette racked up more than 100 rushing yards. The defense even made some key stops while picking up five sacks and 9.5 tackles for a loss. It was everything they didn't do in New Orleans in Week 1. The only negative was another Brady interception and several dropped passes.
The Broncos not only lost on the field but are still taking losses off the field. They have a ton of key injuries, especially on offense in losing Drew Lock and Courtland Sutton to go along with already being without Philip Lindsay. Sunday, Denver lost 26-21 to the Steelers despite all of that and had a chance to get the win with 6:08 left on the road. We'll see if it was a one-week blip on the radar or if things will get much worse with all of the injuries.
Tampa Bay at Denver
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 27 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Spread: Buccaneers -6
Three Things to Watch
Situationally, neither team is in an awful scheduling spot. The Buccaneers are playing their second road game of the season and are returning home in Week 4 to host the Chargers. Meanwhile, it's Denver's second home game of the season and they have a Thursday night contest in New York against the Jets up next. There will be just under 6,000 fans at this game at Empower Field at Mile High, which won't make that much of a difference to the Bucs.
2. Jeff Driskel
Driskel relieved an injured Drew Lock last week and went 18-for-34 for 256 yards. He added two touchdowns and one interception while running the ball twice for five yards. This is the former Louisiana Tech (started his college career at Florida) signal-caller's third team in his short career. Last year he appeared in three games for Detroit completing 59 percent of his passes with four touchdowns to four interceptions. In 2018, Driskel played in nine contests for the Bengals with a better completion percentage and more touchdowns. The one thing that seemed to be a consistent issue is that he's taken a ton of sacks with 33 of them over the 13 contests. This could mean that Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh could have a field day against a banged-up Denver offensive line. For Denver, trying to establish Melvin Gordon (4.4 ypc) would be a wise move, but Tampa Bay has done a good job against the run (84.5 ypg, 4th in NFL) in early going so that won't be easy.
3. Still growing Tampa offense
The Buccaneers still don't feel they've hit their potential as an offense. Head coach Bruce Arians has done a good job so far calling his team out when they made mistakes. After the Week 1 loss, Arians put Brady on blast for his poor performance. After this past Sunday's win, he went after the drops that his skill position players had. Things should get even better with wide receiver Chris Godwin expected to return to the lineup against a Denver defense without its top cornerback (A.J. Bouye) and several other key pieces including Von Miller. Rob Gronkowski hasn't even done much with just two catches on four targets. It could be a get-right game for Tampa in the Mile High City.
Everything points to a Tampa Bay win. I really want to take Denver in this game, but there may be just too many injuries for the Broncos to overcome. I don't think we get the best effort from the Buccaneers in this one and it'll be close until late when the defense just runs out of gas. Bruce Arians' bunch gets the win and moves to 2-1 on the season.
Prediction: Buccaneers 24, Broncos 17
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.
(Top photo courtesy of buccaneers.com)